A funeral. A birthday. A baby.

What a week.  Drove 1145 miles to Enid, Oklahoma so my mom could be buried in the family plot near her mother.  Actually, she was buried in Goltry, a small and sad outpost on the windswept and desolate Oklahoma panhandle.  I believe if you look up the word depressing in the dictionary you can see a picture of Goltry.

The day of the funeral was windy (as I expect everyday in that godforsaken land must be) and bitterly cold.  Mom wanted a simple graveside service and that is what she got.  My Aunt Pat (of fruit salad fame) led the service and the grandkids present each gave a moving tribute as to what Grandma Bonnie had meant in their lives.  Tears were shed and then it was done.

Well, we had a family gathering at the Western Sizzlin’ (apparently one of the finer dining establishments in Enid) and then those of us who were so inclined retired to the Ramada Inn bar.  The eight of us then proceeded to wash away our sorrow (at least temporarily) through massive quantities of beer and various other alcoholic beverages.

My nephew Jason and his wife Rosie brought out a guitar and sang “Upward Over the Mountain” in honor of my mom. It was an incredibly beautiful song and an appropriately moving moment that seemed to give each of some measure of closure.  I know mom would have loved it.

By unfortunate coincidence, the funeral day was also daughter-in-law Lauren’s birthday.  We did a toast in her honor.  Although Lauren was toasting us with fruit juice.  Because she found out that morning that she was pregnant with my son’s first child.  Apparently after quite some time trying.

Kevin revealed that in one of his final conversations with mom she had asked him to promise to take his son to church on Sundays.  He told her “grandma, I don’t have a son”.  She said “just promise”.

Renee is convinced that the first thing mom did in heaven was to pull some strings.  I don’t know about that.  But it was a day of days for sure and I wouldn’t put anything past my mom.


Life moves on

Things seem really different around here in the absence of mom’s presence.  I’m equally torn between relief that her suffering is over and enormous sadness that the life she loved so much is gone.  But I guess that’s really the way it works out for most people, isn’t it?

She wants to be buried next to her mother in Goltry, Oklahoma.  It’s a tad over 1100 miles from here and I’m in the mood for a road trip.  So I’ll be hitting the Interstate on Friday.

Last night I played darts for the first time since I’ve been “home”.  Found a nice little Irish pub with three boards named The Puddlin’ Duck.  I joined the “league” which amounts to a weekly blind draw double elimination tourney.  There were fourteen of us throwing tonight and I felt warmly welcomed.  So, I’ve got Wednesdays covered at least.

Played so bad though even Jee Yeun was embarrassed for me.  I overheard her telling my new mates that I really wasn’t that bad.  Well, not to make excuses but it has been awhile since I’ve thrown and it being a new venue surrounded by strangers and all it’s understandable I’d be off my game.  Right?  Right?

Anyway, it will be better.  It’s got to get better.

All you need is love

The nearest friends can go
With anyone to death, comes so far short
They might as well not try to go at all.
No, from the time when one is sick to death,
One is alone, and he dies more alone.
Friends make pretense of following to the grave,
But before one is in it, their minds are turned
And making the best of their way back to life
And living people, and things they understand.

–Robert Frost (from Home Burial)

My mother died this morning.  At home, peacefully in her sleep.  These past two weeks had been a struggle for her but she kept on fighting.  It was heartbreaking to watch her fade away each day.  She had stopped eating, drinking, and using her oxygen and become verbally non-communicative.  But until yesterday I could still see her “in there” behind her eyes and there was a spark of recognition when friends and family members came to visit.

The best night occurred last week when her sisters from California were here.  She was surrounded by people who loved her and she seemed to really perk up.  She actually made a little speech about what’s important in life and she said all that matters is love.  Mom told us to always love one another and everyone else we encountered.  When it was done she smiled and said, “well, I guess I gave a sermon”.  Mom was clearly loving having her family with her, that’s for sure.

She deteriorated pretty quickly after that.  She lost the ability to speak, but still would lift her arms and offer hugs to any and all takers.  Later she was reduced to moaning and grunts and all we could do was administer morphine and keep her as comfortable as possible.  She would still make eye contact and I sensed a pleading for help, but there was no help I could provide other than stroking her head.

The last days watching her lie there fighting for breath was heartrending and we could only standby watching her suffering.  This morning we woke to find her at peace at last.

You know, I have always feared dying alone.  So I thought it was a good thing that mom had family around her at the end of her days.  But I also observed that no matter the circumstances, we are all going to die alone.  Mom was physically alive, but she was also already gone to some other unreachable place.  I can only hope it was comfortable and pain free there.

Thanks for all the love you so freely gave me mom.


A week in the life

Leaving Korea proved to be harder in the end than I imagined it would be.  The New Year’s eve send off was tremendous and I will carry many happy memories of my Korea life wherever the future may lead me.

Had a long but uneventful New Year’s Day flight to the USA.  I was welcomed to America by a Thrifty car rental agent who made a big show of “doing me a favor” by allowing me to actually rent the car I had reserved.  Seems that if I rent a car using a debit card I am required to provide my return flight information.  Which since I have now made South Carolina my home I don’t possess.  She hemmed and hawed and finally made the comment that she would “do me a favor” and rent me the car.  I was tired and hungover and wanted to tell her to go fuck herself but my desire to get out of the airport and on my way overcame the impulse and the transaction was completed.  Her parting shot was “well, I’ve done my good deed for the day!”.  I shook my head and walked away but I was reminded of one of the reasons I’m dreading living in the USA.  Sanctimonious bitch!

I dropped off my bags at the house and went to visit my mom in the hospital.  Not good.  Not good at all.  I was shocked at how much she had deteriorated since my visit in November.  Things were much worse than I imagined and the doctor confirmed that they would not be getting better.  Since there was nothing more to be done medically (congestive heart failure) we were presented with two options–home hospice care or confinement to a nursing home.  We made the obvious choice of allowing her to die at home.

So, a hospital bed was delivered and set up in the living room (ironic name, eh?).  A hospice worker comes five days a week to bathe my mother.  A hospice nurse comes a couple of times a week.  A social worker also appears periodically.  The rest is up to us family members.  I never imagined I’d participate in changing my mother’s diapers, but that’s now part of my daily routine.  I’m doing my best to make her as comfortable as possible for as long as she may have left, but it somehow doesn’t feel like it is nearly enough.

Mom told me she loves me for coming home to her, so there’s that.

I spilled diet coke on my netbook keyboard on a drunken New Year’s morning.  The computer functioned fine except when I typed letters would randomly be numbers and vice-versa, which made logging on with passwords impossible.  Hence the lack of posting here.  I took it in for repairs and got a call yesterday that there was nothing wrong and I could pick it up.  Well, maybe the Vaio has a self-healing feature or I experienced a minor miracle.  Even more bizarrely the repair shop said “no charge”.

I bought a car, bought insurance for said car, and obtained a South Carolina driver’s license.  The last item was was touch and go.  Despite having my passport and birth certificate, the wanted my original social security card.  Well, when it was issued 40 years ago it was just a flimsy business card material that has long since disintegrated.  I didn’t think to bring my last pay stub but then I remembered that I had failed (intentionally) to return my Army ID card.  And since it won’t expire until 22 January and it showed my SSN, I was golden.  All I had to do now was demonstrate proof of residence.  Well, I’m staying with my parents, but my name is on the deed to the house.  In the state’s eyes, that doesn’t prove I live there (valid point, since my name has been on the deed for 6 years, and I’d been here 6 days).  Of course, the utility bills are in Dad’s name so it looked like I was in a classic catch-22 situation.  Then I remembered my proof of insurance certificate showing my living at this address.  Score!  I am now a licensed driver in SC for the second time in my life.

Thursday I drove my nephew Joshua (who had been staying with mom and was a tremendous help) to the airport in Raleigh.  It was an 8 hour round trip, but my new car handled well and provided a comfortable ride.

Jee Yeun has been an angel.  She’s a natural born caregiver and has really done everything possible to make mom comfortable (including pedicures).

Of course, despite our best efforts, mom is not comfortable at all.  She seems to be having an increasing difficulty breathing and she’s miserable staying in bed.  She begs us to let her up, but it is just not possible to move her in her current state of immobility.

I thought for awhile we were going to lose her last night, but she came around.

Her sisters are due in this afternoon and she’s looking forward to that.

And now we are just watching and waiting and hoping her suffering is not too great.

I hate everything about my new life.  And I’m glad to be here.  For whatever that’s worth.